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PacifiCorp, parent company of Utah Power and other utility subsidiaries, is proposing that all electric utility customers nationwide be able to choose their supplier by Jan. 1, 2001, to end an era of regional monopoly markets.

Fred Buckman, president and chief executive officer, told shareholders Wednesday at the company's annual meeting that all states should shift to an open, competitive energy marketplace.The states would be given flexibility to design and put into place their own plans, but federal guidelines are needed to assure equality, he said.

"We want this transition to occur as quickly and equitably as possible," Buckman said. "We don't think customers should have to wait any longer than necessary."

The proposal drew praise from John D. Carr, executive director of the Direct Services Industries Inc., which represents large power users that buy their electricity directly from the Bonneville Power Administration.

"We think that's the right way to go," Carr said. "Customer choice in the electric industry will happen. It's only a question of when."

But Jim DiPeso, a spokesman for the Northwest Conservation Act Coalition, warned large industrial customers may gain an unfair advantage.

"Residential customers won't have the marketplace clout to bargain for themselves," DePeso said.